Education, Education Delivery Programs, Ivan Illich, Life Learning, Schools, Unschooling

Reflections on Illich 07: Drill and education are not in competition but are complementary

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

pp. 17-18  “… (the) two-faced nature of learning: drill and an education.  School does both tasks badly, partly because it does not distinguish between them.”

This is a critically important distinction that needs to be embraced in the context of unschooling with a discipleship emphasis.  Schools are very bad at distinguishing between drill and education, and very often swing to either extreme; i.e. fill the school day with drill and call it education, or fill the day with ‘education’, but neglect the importance of drill at critical times in the educational life of the child.

Both drill and education are required.  Both have their place, and one cannot substitute for the other.

What then is meant by education, and what is meant by drill?  How are they different, and how are they complementary?

By education is meant the living of life for the purpose of learning how to live life richly and fully.  An education needs to be liberal, in the older sense of being exposed to a very broad range of experiences and cultural expressions, and being able to engage in social intercourse around around such cultural life.  An education includes exposure to good music, beautiful works of art, great accomplishments in architecture, reading of excellent samples of literature from a range of historical periods, and so forth.

On the other hand, being able to live life requires the mastery of specific skills.  Skills mastery often requires repetition, so that there are mental and physical stimulus-response tracks created in the brain and muscle fibres.  Such drill could include the learning of algorithmic facts (i.e. times tables, addition/subtraction facts), phonics coding and decoding cues, geographical features such as rivers and mountains, and names of states and capital cities, lines of Presidents and Prime Ministers and Kings and Queens to create historical pegs upon which can be hung other historical facts, sport and athletic disciplines, and so forth.

Mastery of such skills is not an education, but neither can an education be complete without the mastery of such skills.  The two must be understood, their part in the unschooling process embraced, and their complementary nature fully appreciated.

This just does not happen in most school contexts.

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deschooling, Discipleship, Ivan Illich, Unschooling

Reflections on Illich 02: Schools don’t just school the kids, they school the whole society

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 4  “Everywhere not only education but society as a whole needs ‘deschooling’.”

When I was growing up, the most common comment made to a child when met by an adult was, “What are you going to be when you leave school?”  It was assumed that children went to school.  No one that I knew even thought of a possible alternative.  Schools and schooling are a mindset, and a mental stronghold.  And the stronghold pervades our western culture.  Sure, there are small pockets of those who have thought outside the norm, and there is an even smaller minority who have actually applied themselves to the task of doing stuff that is not like school.

However, due to the pervasiveness of schools and schooling, the very fabric of western culture is schooled.  Schools look very much like total institutions (as I argue in my dissertation pp. 87-90), and the survivors of schools carry institutionalized thinking into the general culture.  This spreads institutional thinking throughout the culture.

Institutional thinking reduces human value and interaction down to systems, rationalization, pragmatism and utilitarianism, that is measured quantitatively.  All in all you’re just another brick in the wall (to paraphrase Waters).

This is in contradistinction to organic thinking.  Organic thinking is creative, entrepreneurial, cooperative, relational and achieves quantity through qualitative measures.

Institutional thinking is top-down.  Organic thinking is top-up; and by top-up I mean the kind of leadership that serves and equips, rather than uses and rules over.

Cultural change must begin with me and mine, and must start with a change of heart.  Having a change of heart, we need to become educated after a process of deschooling.  From my perspective, the best way to become educated is through unschooling, and the most powerful unschooling is that that which is done at the side of a caring and trustworthy mentor, who demonstrates and coaches, equips and encourages, and finally releases into joy and fruitfulness in life.  Over time, this will leaven the whole of the culture with an unschooled mindset.  It has to start somewhere.

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Home Schools, Home-Based Education, Unschooling

Some more discussion around the terms associated with home-based education

This has been posted at the blog site: ‘Go School Yourself” http://goschoolyourself.com/2014/07/18/de-schooling-success-no-summer-break-for-us/comment-page-1/#comment-72  I have reproduced it here to encourage as much discussion around the topic as possible.  I am really interested in what others have to say about the matter.

Thank you so much for your feedback. This looks like the beginnings of a long discussion, and I hope it will expand to include a lot of people who can make detailed comments from their positions in the spectrum. My full PhD dissertation is posted at: https://www.academia.edu/7970729/Deschooling_Unschooling_Australian_Biblical_Christian_Education

I am proposing that we set up a blog site that is specifically dedicated to this topic, and that the developing definitions ultimately be written up into a series of peer-reviewed journal articles which can be released into the marketplace for ongoing feedback and refinement.

It seems to me that a lot of criticism is aimed at home-based educators through straw-man arguments, and that is possible because when the term ‘homeschool’ is being used, it means everything and in so doing, means absolutely nothing (to paraphrase John Lennon). But if, as a movement, we can define the terms, with shades of application that cover the full gamut of manifestations of home-based education, then we can knock down the straw-men with a word.

So, back to your reply. I feel stronger that the term “home-based education” is a good umbrella term. It is home-based, because it is not “home-bound”.

In my research I came across families that were home-bound. Everything that was done in the name of home schooling, replicated the school in the home. The only problem was that the children were separated from anyone outside the home. The focus was academics, without any influence from others in the community. It seemed logical to me that these kinds of manifestations should be called, home schoolers. The term has two words that easily evoke imagery that enables the visualisation of the situation: most of what happens in the home looks very much like what happens at school. In 2013 the New South Wales state government, in Australia, released a set of regulations governing home schooling, and the NSW state government has made it illegal for any kind of home education to take place that is not registered, and to register, the home education must look exactly like what takes place at school. http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/parents/pdf_doc/home-edu-info-pack-13.pdf In fact, what is required of home schooling parents is over and above what is achieved by professional teachers in school classrooms. That, from my perspective, is home schooling. It is on the extreme of my proposed model, it exists, and is mandated by state and territory governments in Australia. I talk about it in some detail in my PhD dissertation. From that definition, there are many who call themselves home schoolers (homeschoolers), but who, in actual fact, do not run their home-based education exactly like school (but it must be conceded that some do – I have evidence of that fact).

So, what term can we use that distinguishes home schoolers from other home-based educators? I found the term unschoolers, and I think that term is useful. Unschoolers consciously do stuff that does not look like school.

Now, on the other extreme, there seems to be those families that are so unlike school, that they make the child’s decision-making processes the sole guide to what takes place in life. The child chooses when to go to bed, the child chooses what to eat, the child has free and unfettered access to the internet, the child, in effect, brings him/herself up without any kind of supervision, interruption, guidance, input from the parents; a complete hands-off approach. My research has found such families – they exist – and it is a radical extreme of the home-based education community. And sadly, these are often called homeschoolers, and the outcome of their hands-off parenting gives ammunition for policy makers to label homeschooling as child neglect. I have evidence. This group looks nothing like school, so in that sense they are unschoolers. However, I have identified them as the ‘radical unschoolers’. Now, many who, at the moment, call themselves radical unschoolers would be offended by the characterization that I have made. So, my argument is, those who would be offended by my definition of radical unschoolers, are in fact not radical unschoolers, but unschoolers with a particular emphasis.

Unschooling, therefore, is home-based education that does not look like school, but it does not precluded a whole range of strategies and manifestations of education being employed where appropriate: these manifestations and strategies I have called emphases in my dissertation. In this sub-category called emphases I have included: natural learning; discipleship; child-led learning; child-focused learning, academics-focused learning; life learning/education in life/education for life; apprenticeship; eclectic learning; kitchen table/dining room table education; practical learning; activities-based learning; democratic education; anarchistic education; etc. This means that the pool of unschoolers is a very large pool that includes: unschoolers with a discipleship emphasis; unschoolers with a natural learning emphasis; unschoolers with a gentle-parenting emphasis; unschoolers with a range of emphases at different times and for different children and for different circumstances and opportunities. I have tried to talk about these emphases in my dissertation, and am fully conscious of the fact that a whole PhD dissertation could be developed around just this single point: the words used to describe home-based education.

I am not claiming to be the authority on this matter. I am simply wanting to provoke a discussion, and get as many people involved in the discussion as possible, and then synthesise the discussion into some useful articles that can then be used by the home-based educating community to defend themselves from being all lumped in with the people on the edges of the movement who attract the wrong kind of attention. Don’t get me wrong, I would defend their right to bring up their own children in the way that they think fit. It is not for me to interfere with a parent’s parenting. However, when we talk about these things we need much more precise language to draw from.

Am really looking forward to ongoing discussions around this issue.

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deschooling, Home-Based Education, Natural Learning, Unschooling

The flexibility of home-based education

In preparing research for my PhD dissertation, one of the participants in an interview made the following statement:

“… over the years we went through times of more flexibility in academic learning.  At times we were less academic, and more kinaesthetic.  In town we sometimes reverted to natural learning.  We went backwards and forwards in methods.  Over time we saw that development of character was critical; the development of godly character.”

This is one of the most powerful features of a home-based education: total flexibility.  Parents need to be deschooled, and that takes time.  The home-based journey may begin looking a bit (or a lot) like school, while confidence is being built.  However, everyone learns together, and if there is constant communication, instruction modes and ways of learning can be trialled, embraced or laid down for a time.

There are many, many ways of teaching that parents can study, trial and consider the benefit of for specific children, for specific learning objectives, for specific seasons of learning.  No one style is better than another, and all of them can sometimes be a wrong fit in a particular context, but a right fit in a totally different context.

Above all else, it has to be kept in mind that the objective is character development.  Listen to the children.  Children love learning, and if they are not loving the experience, work out why.  Is it an instructional misfit?  Are they not ready for that phase of learning?  Are they bored and need a fresh approach to the same thing?  Are they simply having a bad day, and need a big hug, a break from it all, and an opportunity to make a fresh start after a good, long sleep.

 

 

 

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deschooling, Socialization

… vive la difference …

In the book, The Twelve Year Sentence: Radical Views of Compulsory Schooling, edited by William F. Rickenbacker (1974),  H. George Resch, in his chapter ‘Human Variations and Individuality’ points out that human equality is a myth.  There is nothing equal about any of us, other than our equal responsibility to live righteously before the law.

From the minutiae of our DNA, to the macro details of our body shape, emotional responses, mental capacities, preferences, gifts and motivations; the total combination of who we actually are is completely unique from everyone else who has existed, and ever will exist.

Our uniqueness makes mass education an impossibility.  It is just not possible to cater for all the educational, emotional and relational needs of all the children in a classroom.  The expectation placed on teachers to do so is an unreasonable expectation, and in many cases causes stress for the teacher who is failing to rise to the expectation, and the students who are not having their needs met.

One of my respondents stated that, “… some children need the read / write version of instruction.   However, it is a challenge to children who are not wired that way.  Different families can cater in different ways for the differences in their children.  They can provide a certain kind of education for those children academically-oriented, and give a life-oriented education for those children who are that way inclined.  Parents can cater for the different needs of each of the children.”

Parents who are giving their children educational opportunities in the midst of everyday family life, can guide each of their children into tasks and projects and research assignments that cater for the particular learning style, interest and capacities of that particular child.  In a classroom you are not living life, you are creating an artificial hothouse, and every situation has to be planned and prepared for.  However, not everyone will be catered for, so boredom, frustration and anti-learning elements will be introduced into the classroom, which will draw the teacher’s energies and attention away from the students who are interested and do want to learn.

Long live the differences in humanity.  However, the socializing agenda (i.e. indoctrination into socialism) of schools militates against such differences.  Only home-based unschooling can properly recognize, feed and cause to flourish the uniqueness of each person in the family.

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Unschooling

Gary North and the Unschooled Disciple

Like him or hate him (and there would not be many who had an ambivalent opinion), all must agree that Gary North’s life has been an amazing string of accomplishments.  At age 18 he was converted to Christ, and soon after his conversion he realized that he only had one life to live, at the end of which he was to give an account of it before the Great White Throne of Judgment.

Gary believed he was called to write a theory of economics that was consistently based on the Bible, but in scanning the economic literature over the centuries from the time of Christ, he could not find any serious writing on the issue of Biblical Christian economics.  So, he set about writing an economic commentary on the whole Bible.  He allocated 10 hours each week, 50 weeks a year, and in just over 39 years he completed a 31-volume economic commentary on the whole Bible.  Gary North has read, studied and commented on every verse in the Bible that has something to do with economics.

Having completed that task, and having written a plethora of books on other subjects that caught his attention along the way, Gary North, in his early 70s, is now embarking on a task of writing a consistently Biblical Christian theory of economics with accompanying multi-media teaching material, using his own work as an authority to do so.

Gary North has critiqued every other economic theory that is in existence.  He would have to be the world’s, and perhaps history’s, most eminent expert on economics.

Imagine what could be achieved by Christian unschoolers who are encouraged to pursue their passion–their vocation and call of God upon their lives–with Gary North’s accomplishments held up as an example of what can be done by someone with a long-term vision, and freedom to become an expert in one field.

As I think of the possibilities of unschooling, and reflect upon the accomplishments of one man, Gary North, I imagine the day when thousands upon thousands of Biblical Christian unschoolers  release their lives’ works to the world, and there is a radical shift in how life is lived on the basis of thoroughly researched, expert Biblical Christian scholarship.  In that day the Scripture shall be fulfilled which says:

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations will come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob, and he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’  For out of Zion shall go forth the law (teaching), and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).

http://www.garynorth.com/

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Discipleship, Unschooling

Maturity is the goal of education, not just accumulated information

Amongst my research data, one of my respondents said, “Education is about growing a child into maturity.”  Maturity is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible, and lack of maturity is a cause for discipline, or even judgment.

Jesus commanded, in Matthew 5:48, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The word translated perfect could just as well be translated as ‘mature,’ and in fact, in the Amplified Bible, the passage is translated to read, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect [that is, grow into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity].”

The Apostle Paul picked up this theme when he wrote: “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity … and this we will do if God permits (Hebrews 5:11-6:3).

The commandments of Jesus, as they apply to every area of life, are the words of righteousness that Paul is referring to.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  In fact, it is impossible to please God without such obedience, through the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:7-8).  It is through regularly putting these words into practice that spiritual growth takes place.  It is through regularly putting these words into practice that a sense of good and evil is developed.

This is why the great education passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, …”.  Not just as information to be committed to short-term memory for a test, and then forgotten; No! No! No!  Children are to have these commandments demonstrated by willingly obedient parents, who gently, but firmly discipline their children into a life-style of obedience, not as a duty, but as a heart-felt expression of love towards God, and appreciation for all the benefits He has bestowed upon us through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The reward for maturity is an inheritance, and the promised inheritance is the earth.  Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) when he completed His obedient duty to His heavenly Father.  This was the fulfillment of God’s promise that He made to His Son, recorded in Psalm 2: “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.'”  This same reward is given to those who are mature in Christ: “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, … And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things TO THE CHURCH, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:11, 22).  “… made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, …” (Ephesians 2:5-6).  “… to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that THROUGH THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities …” (Ephesians 3:8-10).  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).  “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world …” (Romans 4:13).  “… the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, …” (Romans 4:16).

If all we do is help children to accumulate information, coaching them to commit it to memory so that they can pass tests, and examinations, then we fail them miserably.  Doing will always precede knowing.  You do not know, if you are not doing.  A head full of information, without corresponding doing only fills with pride; “puffeth up”.

Unschooling children, through a discipleship emphasis, should be a process of maturation, so that the children will become suitable recipients of the inheritance that Christ has reserved for them: cities (Luke 19:17), nations (Psalm 2:8), and the earth (Matthew 5:5).

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